Brewery loses High Court battle against pilons

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Tadcaster brewery and self-styled champions of the countryside Samuel Smith have failed in a legal fight at London’s Court of Appeal to block plans to run a new electric line over the Green Belt. They claim the scheme will blight the landscape with seven large steel towers.

Samuel Smith Old Brewery (Tadcaster) had sought permission to appeal against a High Court ruling earlier this year backing the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change’s decision to approve plans for the scheme.

It entails installation of 2 km of new electric line close to Toulston, east of Tadcaster, to reinforce electricity supplies in the area known as the “Ferrybridge Ring”.

At the High Court hearing in January Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart ruled that, despite the “strong case” put forward by the brewery, the Secretary of State’s decision was not “contrary to law” and must be upheld. He said that the new electricity line would meet the “urgent need” to reinforce power supply in the Ferrybridge Ring.

In April 2010, the Secretary of State granted the “wayleaves” required for National Grid to install the seven large steel towers that will carry the line across the land, much of which the brewery owns, and which it says is designated as Green Belt and a Locally Important Landscape Area.

Samuel Smith claims that the objectives could be met by running the lines underground. It says that, from a very early stage in the proposal, it offered to allow National Grid to use its land to install the electric line underground.

On Tuesday it sought permission to appeal arguing that the Secretary of State had placed too much reliance on the urgent need for reinforcement of the Ferrybridge Ring. It also claimed that, had its offer of land for underground cabling been accepted, the decision could have been taken much earlier.

However, refusing permission to challenge the High Court ruling, Lord Justice Sullivan said: “It cannot be said that it was an error of law.”

The Secretary of State granted permission despite a recommendation by two of his own inspectors that the proposal was harmful to the Green Belt and should be refused.

The inspectors found that the towers and lines would significantly extend a harmful physical and visual presence of development within this area of the countryside and have a “visually jarring appearance”.

And they said that, whilst Samuel Smith’s underground proposal would be up to 40 per cent more expensive, it would be “considerably less harmful” to the Green Belt.

Samuel Smith had hoped to win a ruling quashing what it branded a “legally flawed” decision, and an order forcing the Secretary of State to reconsider the decision.

In his ruling in March, Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart said: “It is not the business of the court to express a view as to whether or not the decision was the right one. That is a question on which individual opinions will inevitably differ.

“Samuel Smith mounted a strong case against National Grid’s proposal, a fact evidenced by the fact that two experienced inspectors agreed that the merits of the proposal did not outweigh the harm to the environment.

“The fact that I have upheld the Secretary of State’s decision does not mean that the views of Samuel Smith or the conclusions of the inspectors were wrong or unjustified. The judgment amounts to no more than a determination by the court that the decision of the Secretary of State was not contrary to law.”

Samuel Smith actively opposes intrusion into the Green Belt around Tadcaster and has often taken legal action in respect of planning decisions affecting the area.